Monthly Archives: September 2013

“Make sure you wash yourselves”

Today, after spending the afternoon speaking to people in Cismigiu Park (and, incidentally, getting ourselves kicked out because we handed a gospel flier to a security guard), we hopped on the subway to go visit our Gypsy friends along Drumul Taberei.  They live in what I can only describe as complete squalor.  The adults survive by begging and washing car windows.  They sleep on strangely-smelling and lumpy things that vaguely resemble centuries-old mattresses (one family per mattress) in small rooms with no electricity that somehow survived the destruction of the building that had once stood around them.  Their drafty homes are heated by wood, and only Vasilica’s has running water.  The kids, when they’re not in school, join their parents to wash car windows at the intersections and beg spare change off of passersby.

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Night of the Muslims

Although Eastern Orthodoxy is by far the majority faith in this city, it’s not uncommon at all to run into Muslims here or to see women wearing a veil on the streets.  In fact, somebody once told me that there are four times the amount of Muslims in Bucharest as there are Evangelical Christians.  I have no idea if that statistic is real or not.

Anyhow, last night, I had two really good experiences getting to speak with Muslims about the things of God and challenge them concerning Jesus’ claims.

Majid is from Iran.  He left seven years after the Islamic Revolution, spent a few years in Sweden (where he learned the language and translated then published a book from Persian into Swedish), and then moved to Romania.  I’ve been editing the newest incarnation of his book, the English translation.  Besides enjoying the extra income, I’ve really appreciated my conversations with Majid.  I’ve been learning a lot about life in the Middle East, especially Iran and Iraq.

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On the fear of God and invisibility

invisible-man

In a lot of ways, this post is about one of the biggest struggles I have here in Romania.

Living in a city of two million and in a country whose language and culture I barely understand, far from most friends and family and away from the people who have held me accountable for years, I often feel invisible.  I could probably go the whole day and not run into a single familiar face or have a single person say “Bună ziua, hello” or “Cum eşti?  How are you?”  It’s embarrassing, but I’ve often had to stop myself from taking care of… errr, well… nasal maintenance in public.  I just sometimes forget that people really do notice I’m here.

I’m tempted to think I’m invisible, unnoticed.

There’s a deeper truth here than just remembering not to embarrass yourself in public.

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It’s Worth the Embarrassment

Jake and I joined Alex on Tuesday at Piata Obor to pass out gospel tracts near the subway station.  I love the work Alex is doing, and his zeal for sharing the gospel (driven by his own experience of radical transformation when he discovered the message of the cross) is infectious and challenging.

Alex is a guy who really doesn’t care what he looks like out there sharing the gospel, knowing it’s by nature foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).  It’s an unnerving and challenging but also inspiring characteristic.  I’ve been in the subway with Alex when he’s started a conversation with me loud enough to be called open-air preaching, and the results were similar.  My first time joining Alex for evangelism, he convinced me to grab his bullhorn and start preaching… in English… with no interpreter.  I’m still not sure how he convinced me that was a good idea.  Other times, he’s stopped young women on the street and asked them, as a grandfather might, “Why are you dressed like this?  Don’t you know you’re causing guys to stumble?  Don’t you care about their souls?”  Hanging out with him can be, well, embarrassing.

The bottom line, though, is this:  if hell is real, and if sin destroys men here and for eternity, and if Jesus really rescues men, then the gospel is worth your and my embarrassment.

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Wanted: Worshipers

worshipers wantedWhen I went back to the U.S., almost everyone asked me what I missed most while in Romania.  Although I would usually answer with a list of food (cheddar cheese, milk, Pizza Hut…), those were all secondary (or even “thirdary”).  The one thing I have missed most while living in Romania is passionate and free worship.

At Biserica Piatra Vie, we are trying to develop a church of worshipers.

What will that look like?  Well, as God is the one in charge of building the church (Matthew 16:18) and as he is the one looking hardest for worshipers (John 4:23) and as he is the one who draws men to himself (John 12:32), I’m not entirely sure just what we’ll end up like.  With that said, though, here is some of what we’re envisioning:

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And the word of the day is… Persevere

You might be surprised to hear “persevere” never showed up as the secret word in any of Pee-Wee’s shows.

It has certainly been the “word of the day” lately for us, though.  In fact, just this weekend, three unconnected people all shared that exact same message with me.

1.  On Saturday, I went to my friend Adi’s wedding.  There, Sorin sat down, and he said, “You know, I have a story for you.”  He then began to tell me about a work Brad Hayes (who founded and works with Outstretched Hands of Romania, a ministry in the nearby town of Călăraşi) was leading.  “They had a small children’s meeting,” Sorin continued.  “They did little things, like teaching the kids to brush their teeth, obey their parents, and about Jesus.  One kid was very naughty, but he kept coming to the meetings.  He was there for three years, but he never wanted to go to church or pray or become a Christian.  But he was there at every meeting for three years.  One day, a bad flood came to the village, though it was far from any rivers, and many houses were in danger.  The people started turning to God.”  Sorin went on to tell me how after the flood, the boy and his family all became Christians, and they’ve been steadily growing since then.  “But he was faithful for three years even though that boy never got any better.  And then God blessed him.”

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Holiness and Liberty

As we go through this roller-coaster ride of planting a church in Bucureşti, I have often found myself asking:  “Why on earth did we decide we needed to do this, anyhow?”  These last few weeks, as numbers have dipped especially low, this question has had a tendency to come to mind much more frequently.

So, why are we planting a church here in Bucureşti?

There are many reasons.  Here’s one:  România needs more bodies of believers who trust God for total holiness and experience his total liberty.

Some churches believe that holiness isn’t really attainable and so you might as well just go on sinning and trust Jesus forgives you.  Others seem to think the entire Christian life is an austere and painful struggle to live holy and free from any and every minute imperfection in spirit, soul, and body.

I believe the Bible teaches holiness is completely attainable and that through Jesus we also have incredible liberty.  This is an important dichotomy:  we can be totally and fully pure before God, in body, soul, and spirit; and we can also enjoy life to the full and experience tremendous liberty.

Here are thirteen quick thoughts related to holiness and liberty:

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